Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Why was FlashForward canceled?

by Rob - June 23rd, 2013.
Filed under: FlashForward.

Over on Quora, someone asked why FlashForward was canceled, and someone else replied with an answer that was partially right but significantly wrong. That answer:

The Lost curse. In the 6 years that Lost was on the air, ABC failed at using that monster hit to launch any new shows. The term “Flash Forward” was first used in the third season finale of Lost, and the show featured Lost alumni Dominic Monaghan and Sonya Walger.

ABC launched FlashForward as well as a remake of V (with Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell) as shows that would take on Lost‘s audience after it ended. At the end, it was reported a choice between FlashForward and V over which one would continue, and ABC went with V, which only lasted one more season.

My response:

Despite XXXX’s comment (he asserts “the term ‘Flash Forward’ was first used in the third season finale of Lost” — as if that’s where the idea came from), that’s just not true.

FlashForward the TV series was an adaptation of my 1999 novel of the same name, published five years before the first season of Lost debuted.

More: as announced in Variety on 26 September 2002 — two years before Lost debuted — David Goyer was attached then to write, direct, and produce an adaptation of my novel FlashForward … which is precisely what Dave eventually went on to do (co-authoring the pilot with Brannon Braga).

Also, the pilot script for FlashForward was developed at HBO (which is why HBO is credited on each episode); HBO was not looking to imitate anything on broadcast TV. The casting of Sonya Walger (who appeared in only 14 of the 121 episodes of Lost) as FlashForward‘s female lead was in no way an attempt at Lost-related stunt casting.

FlashForward was cancelled for two reasons. The first was scheduling: the series was not suitable viewing for 8:00 p.m. / 7:00 p.m. Central (the traditional TV “family hour”), but that’s when ABC slotted it (and kept it for its entire run): the intensity, violence, gun use, and presence of a major lesbian character, brilliantly played by Christine Woods, is not what America wanted in that timeslot. So, by the end of the first season, the ratings were low.

The second reason was budgetary: Stephen McPherson, then president of ABC, did only want to keep one science-fiction show. In the end, we were delivering the same ratings each week as V, also on ABC, but we were produced in Los Angeles and had an expensive cast; V was produced in Vancouver and had a much less expensive cast. So, V was (sort of) renewed and we were not.

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2 Responses to Why was FlashForward canceled?

  1. Also, the show just wasn’t that good. It was over-acted, over-dramatic, and almost nothing like your book, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Maybe if they stuck to the source material, it would have earned higher ratings?

  2. I’ve all but given up on television all together, and especially the Big Three (ABC/NBC/CBS) U.S. networks, over their track record of cancelling great Sci-Fi shows. It doesn’t really matter why the show was cancelled, at least from an emotional stand point. Once you are drawn into the show, and begin relating to the characters, it can be a real blow when you get cut off from your weekly fix.

    For the record, “Defying Gravity” was the worst; ABC didn’t even finish the season out. That was when I decided that I wasn’t going to go out of my way to get emotionally invested in television anymore. If it’s on Netflix, or BBC America, I might take a look, but otherwise, I’d rather read a book.

    Art Hall

    P.S. – Keep the books coming; I haven’t been disappointed yet! :)

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